Unintelligent Training (for Dummies like me)
( A fabulous article by our very own Brie)
If you’re not pushing yourself, you’re not a crossfitter. That’s just a fact. But we can push ourselves too hard – leading to injury, or my personal favourite: overtraining. To compliment Colin’s amazing article on intelligent training, I thought I’d present a cautionary tale on the dangers of overtraining, and how pushing yourself too hard can completely derail you.
I’ve overtrained enough in the last year that I can feel it coming on now – the most recent time was in September. Usually it hits me when I’m on an (seemingly) unstoppable wave of great workouts – making me think I’m a superstar, and just to prove me wrong, I get thrown on my ass.
I remember on this occasion we’d finished this WOD and I felt that now-familiar euphoria at having survived alive, I’d finished with a great time and everyone around me was collapsed in a similar puddle of sweat on the floor.
But after 5 minutes, I didn’t really feel recovered. In fact, as we all moved on to practice TGUs by balancing a shoe on our fist, my hand was shaking so badly I couldn’t keep the shoe up. By this time, I was alone in my suffering: everyone else had recovered from the WOD enough to do some great TGUs, and I still felt like I’d been hit by a train. It would be my last crossfitting session for two weeks.
I’ve overtrained before – I remember once jogging to work in the morning and then hitting a spin class in the evening on a Monday, having a personal training session on Tuesday and not being able to properly train again, for two weeks. No injuries – just a strange malaise. And then I did it again. So why haven’t I learned where my limits are?
Its hard to describe how it feels to be overtrained: you just don’t feel yourself. You try to workout and it feels awful. You try to rest and you feel awful. Your mind won’t stop bothering you about all the sessions your missing or the fact that you start losing fitness after 3 days off. You feel depressed and at a loss to deal with it when normally you would exercise. Most often I find that I overtrain myself when I’ve hit some stride of amazing workouts – where I’ve pushed myself on each one, been amazing at my progress and then I feel I’ve been shot down in my prime.
Overtraining is really easy to do: we train when we haven’t slept. We train when we’re hungover. We train and we don’t eat enough. Sometimes all 3. And sometimes we just train too often. We push and push and we break ourselves a little bit.
I think overtraining is a particular risk if you are coming to crossfit as a formerly obese person (as I am). I was an overweight child, an overweight teenager and an overweight adult. When I train, there is no level of fitness from my youth or childhood for my body to reference or return to – everyday is uncharted territory.
I know I must push myself to produce results, break through that mental barrier of ‘I can’t’ that got you fat in the first place, but perhaps my mind becomes too strong, and whether I like it or not, my body is still sometimes lagging behind.
The good news is that overtraining is completely curable and 100% preventable. Rest. Remember what your life was like before crossfit. Go for long walks outside and don’t think about dusty railway arches where people do terrible things to you. Be patient with yourself when you return.
Andrew has promised an article about the sport science of overtraining that might explain the symptoms and solutions of overtraining better than me. Until then I’d encourage you all to keep pushing yourself, keep getting those PRs – just don’t break yourselves.